Session 19 | The Atlantic / Egypt | Dinner for Schmucks

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Visions of Egypt

Game system: Call of Cthulhu 6th ed

Dramatis personae

Edward Foxworthy | Big game hunter | 34 yrs | Flan

Slim Shady | Attorney | 46 yrs | Djuro

Absent this session

Kent Bengtsson | Aviator | 38 yrs | Berndt

H.P Rennfarth | NYPD Forensics Specialist | 27 yrs | Mats

Carl Blackwater | Foreign correspondent | 31 yrs | Martin

Link to background stories and portraits

Written under the influence of Lenzman


The Atlantic, Wednesday, February 18th, 1925 |evening, day 4 at sea

A fond farewell

After witnessing the ghastly (and messy) demise of the Coptic priest Butrus al-Qusi, the investigators have gathered in their favorite salon, sipping their drinks in silence, staring blankly, trying to comprehend what just happened. Each member of the shrinking band of investigators is acutely aware of the mortal danger that they seem to conjure with their every step. They are also gravely aware of the dire straits that the disappearance of al-Qusi has put Edward in, as the man was key to dispelling the dagger’s curse on Edward.

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Pardy hardy

The only one seemingly not worried at all is Edward himself, who is gladly having a gin and tonic, flirting with a pretty lady over at the bar, at the dismay of her male companion, maybe her husband…

The Atlantic, Thursday, February 19th, 1925 |morning, day 5 at sea

Thieves try to steal the dagger

Having a late breakfast the next morning, Edward feels the force of nature make itself known and decides to head back to his cabin on A-deck to take care of business. As he comes nearer, he notices that the door to his cabin stands ajar.

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Edward’s cabin

Drawing his gun, Edward carefully pushes open the door with the barrel. Inside, a middle-eastern-looking man dressed in black is rummaging through his drawers. The luggage has been opened as well and the contents tossed all over the floor.

When the stranger notices Edward, he produces a mean-looking curved blade and approaches to attack. However, bringing a blade to a gunfight has never been a good idea, and the man never gets the chance to strike as Edward shoots him clean in the leg, shattering the femur, sending the man to the floor half unconscious and in great agony.

Ship’s pursers come running at the sound of gunfire, and soon they have called for Mr. John F. Wayne, head of security on board. The wounded thief is rushed off to the ship’s infirmary while Mr. Wayne interviews Edward about the incident. Edward (and Slim who has joined up) plays up the part of the offended guests and soon Mr. Wayne is in full apology mode, stating that theft in the A-section of the ship is virtually unheard of.

The investigators demand the opportunity to interview the thief and are given permission for this by a clearly apologetic head of security.

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The ship’s infirmary

However, when the PCs arrive in the infirmary, the place is in full turmoil. It seems that the thief suddenly had a seizure and died within a minute. Edward and Slim make a quick examination of the corpse, noticing a faint smell of bitter almond. Cyanide poisoning maybe? The man has a middle eastern look, is about 30-35 years old and is all dressed in loose-fitting black cotton clothes. He also has a strange tattoo on his left underarm.

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The tattoo

He has no papers, but after some more investigation, the man is identified as Mahmud bin Mahmud (or at least that’s the name in the passenger manifest). More interesting, the man apparently shared quarters with a certain Rashid Azoulay. Both men have Egyptian passports and share a cabin in 3rd class. The cabin turns out to be very plain and totally devout of further clues. And Mr. Azoulay is nowhere to be found.

The Atlantic, Friday, February 20th, 1925 |morning, day 6 at sea

Plan to root out the thieves

The investigator’s suspect that the reason for the burglary was to steal the Dagger of Thoth and devise a most fiendish plan to root out the rest of the bad guys. The idea is to arrange an opportunity for the thieves to steal the dagger, only this time with their own people ready to step in and apprehend the thieves in the act. It is decided that Edward should keep the dagger on his person, possibly showing it to someone so that it is obvious where it is kept. Edward is also supposed to play drunk in order to give the illusion of a weak target.

The plan is executed by Slim and Edward having an elaborate lunch in the ship’s restaurant, complete with champagne and other spirits (which they only pretend to drink). When being adequately plastered, the plan is for Edward to excuse himself and go out on a specific area of the deck for some fresh air. The rest of the PCs are to be hidden at that location, ready to strike when the thieves make their move.

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Lunchtime!

In the middle of the luncheon, one of the waiters manage to trip and spills a plate of food in Edwards lap. The man apologizes and starts cleaning up the mess with a towel, assuring that the company will, of course, reimburse them and pay for the cleaning of the suit. Edward, who thinks that the waiter is wiping him off a bit too near his private parts angrily waves the man away and the man disappears into the kitchen area, still apologizing.

Cursing and wiping himself off, the big game hunter suddenly comes to realize that the dagger is gone! The bloody waiter must have stolen it!

In a second the two men are running towards the swinging doors leading to the kitchen. Running through the bustling kitchen the PCs manage to push several staff members, sending food and kitchenware into the air. A young scared (as teaspoon-of-thin) sous-chef points them to the back of the kitchen:

“-H- he ran that way!”

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Hard work in the ship’s kitchen

Exiting the kitchen, the men enter a staff only area, with a long corridor ending in a T-intersection. Looking to the right, they see the man in front of a door leading to the outside deck. The door is just closing, suggesting that the false waiter had just met with someone else. The waiter swings around towards the PCs, drawing a mean looking dagger. A short fight ensues, ending with the waiter dead on the bulkhead. Edward stops to check the body while Slim runs out on the deck, in pursuit of the third bad guy. He enters the deck just in time to see someone disappear around a corner. Slim takes up the chase. After the bend there’s a stairway up to the aft deck, where a lot of passengers enjoy the sun and beauty of the scenery. There’s no trace of the runner. Turning around to go down the stairs again, Slim freezes. For a moment he’s sure that he saw Edward Gavigan’s face in a crowd. Looking again, there’s no trace of Gavigan.

-“Must have been the nerves!” Slim thinks as he returns down the stairs…

Meanwhile, Edwards searches the false waiter. The man is of middle eastern descent, with a tattoo on the left underarm, but no papers. Strangely enough, the man is still in possession of the cursed blade, which Edward quickly puts inside his suit jacket, a bittersweet feeling of having gotten back something precious…

When Slim returns, the PCs carry the man outside and dumps the body in the sea after having confirmed that no one else can see. However, they can’t shake the feeling that the big fish got away…

Alexandria / Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning, day 12 at sea

Arrival in Egypt

The rest of the sea voyage is relatively uneventful. Despite the investigator’s vigilance, there are no more sinister incidents and our heroes actually get some much deserved R&R. The 12th day after leaving England, the ship finally reaches their destination – Alexandria. As they glide into the harbor the first thing indicating that they are in Africa is the mighty Ras el-Tin Palace, overlooking the harbor.

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Ras el-Tin Palace from the sea

The Immigration Office is just a short walk from the quay, in a building that doubles as a terminal as well. The chief of the customs staff is a sweating Englishman who demands to see their papers with the demeanor of someone used to being in charge. Thanks to Edward’s previous experience with import and export of hunting weapons and the paperwork that they arranged within England, the procedure is easy and the investigators can soon take their first steps on the streets of Alexandria. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds before they are assaulted from all directions by people of all sorts – beggars, taxi drivers, hotel owners, porters all want to earn a few dollars by performing some service. If said service is wanted or not is completely beside the point.

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Alexandria street life in the 1920s

As the PCs are straining to take back luggage that some random person just picked up and started to carry away, an Egyptian man in a white linen suit comes up and introduces himself in perfect English. The man introduces himself as Mikhay’el Sufiyani and says that he’s a colleague of Butrus. He also wonders where Butrus might be.

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Mikhay’el Sufiyani

To get away from the bustle, the PCs follow Mikhay’el to a nearby café at Place Muhammed Ali, to discuss further in the shade. After ordering some strong mint tea, the man explains that Butrus telegraphed him from the sea, asking him to come and meet up and also that he described the names and looks of his American friends.

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Place Muhammed Ali

When informed of Butrus’ death, Mikhay’el looks shocked and disturbed and says that they now must make great haste as the Cult of the Watchers is on the move. Mikhay’el says that they must immediately travel to a place called Ashmunayn, where the exorcism of the curse can take place.

As they sit in the café, a man with a funny mustache approaches them, offering his services as a dragoman (guide) in broken but completely intelligible English.

-“My friends! I’m Muhammed the Dragoman. I can help you with everything! Very cheap. Special price, just for you!”

Mikhay’el waves away the man, stating that they don’t need a dragoman since they have him.

To the disapproval of Mikhay’el, the investigator’s want to go to Cairo first, to check up on some clues before going to Ashmunayn. As they wait for the train to depart, the PCs arrange for lodgings in the famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. The train station is nearby and soon the group is on their way to Cairo, which takes some 4 hours.

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Alexandria Railway station

Cairo

 

After arriving in Cairo Central Railway Station, the investigator’s take a horse-drawn cab (kalesh in Egyptian) to Shepheard’s Hotel (situated about 5 minutes from the train station at 8 Sharia Kamil, just beside the Ezbekia Gardens park) where they are welcomed almost as royalty. Mikhay’el doesn’t ride with them as he has his lodgings in Hotel Mujaffah in another part of the city.

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Cairo Central Railway Station

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Entrance to Shepheard’s Hotel

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Ezbekia Gardens

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Shepheard’s Hotel

Following the clues

The main lead in Cairo is the letter from a certain Faraz Najir that the PCs found at Jackson Elias’ murder scene (Clue #11). It’s a letter from Faraz Najir to Mr. Carlyle, where Najir states that he’s in possession of certain antiques that Carlyle might be interested in. The letter further states that Mr. Carlyle’s agent should come to Najir’s shop at the Street of Jackals in the Old Quarter of Cairo to arrange matters further.

Zoomable Old Cairo map

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The investigators realize that they need a guide and since they don’t trust Mr. Mikhay’el fully, they decide to get a dragoman of their own. The hotel reception is happy to provide for this and after some 45 minutes the concièrge have rounded up a selection of dragomen:

  • Ma’muhd – a young poor barefoot boy of about 11 or 12 years of age
  • Hakim – a young man of about 20 years of age

As the PC discuss with the boys they hear a familiar voice:

-“My friends!”

It’s Muhammed – the dragoman from Alexandria! Despite him never being silent, the PCs decide to go for him as he’s a bit older and since he speaks a plethora of languages (however, how well, they don’t know). The boys depart, looking sullen and disappointed, Hakim swearing in Arabic.

A typical dragoman ( interpreter ) in Cairo, Egypt. 1920s

Muhammed the Dragoman

The Street of Jackals

In the afternoon, the investigators leave the hotel for a tour of the Old Quarter, that is situated to the east of Ezbekia Gardens. In fact, hotel guests with rooms facing the east have a lovely view of the Old City and the slums.

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Old Quarter

Asking people on the streets, Muhammad navigates to the Street of Jackals in about 30 minutes. The neighborhood is incredibly old and squalid, consisting of very narrow streets and alleys that twist and turn in a totally random pattern, sitting next to the old city wall of Cairo.

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Cairo street life

Sadly, the address provided in the letter leads to a burned-out husk of a building. Asking around with the help of Muhammed, they learn that 5 or 6 years previously, a fire demon descended upon the shop and set it aflame. They also learn that the owner, Mr. Najir was horribly burned, but that he survived and has since opened a new shop in Khan el-Khalili, an ancient marketplace near Sharia Muezzeddin Allah.

Faraz Najir’s Shop

Muhammed knows where the location of the old market is and after some 30 more minutes walking, the PCs finds a shop clearly marked “Faraz Najir” in Arabic, “Curios” in English and “Magasin des Antiquités” in French. The shop is located on a very narrow street of mostly pottery shops and above the shop are several floors of low-grade tenements. Inside, the shop is filled from floor to ceiling with a mish-mash of cheap tourist stuff. A man wearing a djellaba sits on a low stool beside a small round brass table, sipping some tea from a glass. As the PCs enter, he stands up to greet them:

-“Salaam Alaikum dear friends! What can I do for you? Perhaps you want to purchase some real Egyptian antiques today, yes?”

Despite the fact that the man’s face is shadowed by the hood of the djellaba, it is evident that his right side is horribly disfigured by fibrous scarring, consistent with the scarring you would see after serious burns.

When the investigators mention Carlyle, Najir’s eyes bulge and his English rapidly deteriorate as he mumbles something about closing the shop, trying to shoo them out. When they don’t leave at once, he picks up a bejeweled decoration scimitar which he points at the PCs as he starts to yell in Arabic. Muhammed says that he is calling them thieves and that he is calling for aid.

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People gather outside the shop

Outside the shop, people start to gather, talking angrily and spitting at the accursed foreigners that come here to steal. Muhammed manages to negotiate an uneasy truce but says that they must leave immediately as violence is just beneath the surface. All but Slim are eager to get the hell out of the place, but the attorney won’t give up until he has been hit with some thrown rocks.

After this frightening experience, the investigators decide to head back to the hotel for some well-deserved food, drink and rest and return to business the next day.

Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, February 26th, 1925 |morning

A clandestine meeting in the mosque

Early the next morning, the investigators send Muhammed alone to try to talk sense into Mr. Najir, and also offering him a sum of money if he agrees to talk with them. The dragoman returns with the good news that Mr. Najir has agreed to meet them before lunch (1 to 2 p.m.) in the El Hussein Mosque (not far from the Street of Jackals) where he feels safe.

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El Hussein Mosque

Najir meets them at the side of the mosque and proceeds with silently leading them inside to a small secluded room where they sit down on the floor.

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Faraz Najir

Faraz Najir’s tale

According to Najir, Roger Carlyle had sought information on the reign of the Black Pharaoh, a reign supposedly ended by Sneferu, first pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty. Since Najir had come into possession of certain objects of art related to the Black Pharaoh, he reached out to Carlyle to inquire if he was interested in purchasing them. The New York dilettante was interested indeed and arranged for his agent in Cairo, a certain Warren Besart, to settle the deal and collect the items, which were:

  • An ancient scroll detailing the entrance to a hidden room in an unnamed pyramid, wherein the Black Pharaoh was supposedly entombed
  • A bust of the Black Pharaoh
  • A small tambourine drum bearing odd symbols, rumored to be laden with mystical power
  • A strange circlet with a large zircon which was said to be the crown of the Black Pharaoh and to be the key to his triumph over death

More questions (and baksheesh) also reveals:

  • Najir stole the above artifacts from the house of Omar Shakti, a prominent businessman and rumored high priest of the Egyptian Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh
  • It was the Brotherhood that punished his theft by sending a fire djinn to burn him
  • The Brotherhood is rumored to be involved in a recent theft of a mummy from the currently ongoing Clive Expedition
  • Another rumor is that the Brotherhood wants an item located in the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but he has no idea of what that object may be

Najir also tells the investigators that he wants no part in any of this anymore and he asks them not to tell anyone of this meeting. It is evident that he fears for his life and that he is very frightened of the Brotherhood. When the horribly disfigured little man leaves, he asks the PCs to wait for 10 minutes before they leave.

Searching for Warren Besart

The investigators return to the hotel and discuss their next move. It is decided that H.P Rennfarth and William Fredricks pay a visit to the main Police Station near Ezbekia Gardens to see if he can find the address of Warren Besart.

Book river cruise

Muhammed the Dragoman is sent down to the river to book passage on a felouk (small river sailing boat). Such meager means of travel will increase the chances of keeping themselves incognito as they suspect that the more luxurious river steamers will be monitored by either the Watchers or the Brotherhood.

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A felouk on the Nile

More plans and Edward’s condition

They also plan to ask around for the Mosque of Ibn-Tulun, but the number one priority now is to help Edward with his “condition”.

His seizures continue to come around noon on a daily basis but over the time described in this post, they increase in duration as well as in severity, abrading away a chunk of Edward’s mind and sanity with each passing day.


And here we had to end the session. To be continued soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. Reblogged this on Sanity Zer∅ and commented:

    Long overdue (we have already played session 20 and 21 as well) recap of session 19 of our Masks of Nyarlahotep game using CoC 6th edition. Heavy on spoilers!

    Like

    Reply

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